MEPs backed the reform of the 2003 law to remove exceptions to the EU ban on shark finning

The European Parliament approved the reform of the law that allows exceptions to cut off shark fins and dumping carcasses at sea. The ban, in place since 2003, prohibited removing shark fins on board vessels.

The European Commission proposed in November 2011 to remove exceptions to the EU ban on "shark finning" - i.e. cutting off fins and dumping carcasses at sea. According to MEPs, these exceptions required fishermen to keep carcases on board, but they made the ban difficult to enforce, as by allowing boats to land fins and bodies at different ports, they made it hard to match fin and carcass counts.

MEPs therefore supported the Commission's proposals that removes the exceptions, which took the form of special permits to remove fins at sea. Sharks must henceforth be landed with their fins "naturally attached". To date, the largest numbers of special permits have been issued by Spain and Portugal. Maria do Céu Patrão Neves, the MEP responsible for the report, sought to retain the exceptions, whilst narrowing their scope, so as to allow only freezer-fishing vessels to fin sharks at sea and oblige them to land the fins and processed sharks' bodies in the same port.

Many shark species are very vulnerable to overexploitation. In recent years, some shark stocks have been overfished and jeopardised due to a dramatic increase in demand for shark products, particularly fins.